Solar power is one of the things that will undoubtedly help to save our planet. Emissions from sources like fossil fuels and other carbon sources have only risen in many countries in the EU in recent years, particularly with Germany shuttering their nuclear plants, one of the largest clean sources of energy in the country. Solar is one of the areas they want to grow to make up this difference, but that presents a whole different set of problems. Solar is harmful to the environment in both manufacturing and disposal, as heavy metal contamination is a real problem. There’s no real recycling paradigm in place to deal with the panels once they reach their end of their lifespan. Most importantly, however, solar power is intermittent and doesn’t provide stable generation required for roughly 60% of all power produced (known as base load supply).
Roughly 60% of the peak grid demand must be base load and always available. This is to help prevent brown outs, or voltage drops across the transmission area. Nuclear, as a cheap base load source, is the only one that can offer this without emissions presently. Solar only produces power for roughly 7-8 hours of the day in the winter, and capacity factor can be as well as 5% of it’s peak production level during periods of cloudy weather. This makes for a poor direct base load source.
Potential Solutions to Solar Periodicity
Several solutions have been proposed for either storing solar energy, or producing it 24/7. One that we have probably all heard about at one time or another is storing grid electricity in batteries. There are numerous obstacles, technically, economically and practically with making this a reality. Economically storing energy is still outrageously expensive. Grid level storage (sufficient to augment usage of a small city for even a single day) would require more than the entirety of all Lithium battery production every year presently. This is equivalent to approximately $4 to 5 billion. Worse still, this asset would last less than 7 years with any functionality. Compare that to a nuclear reactor, which lasts upwards of 100 years producing energy for marginally cheaper than even solar in the first place, and there’s little cost incentive to use chemical storage at the present time.
Another option for energy storage is creating artificial dams and pumping the water up into the dam and sending it back down later to meet demand. There are some issues with this approach, though it is cheaper than chemical storage. Dams are geographically limited in their locations, as you need mountains and they need to be close enough together to store large amounts of water. Many regions do not have this available. In addition, they are usually expensive, though long lasting. Operating an artificial dam is just as expensive as a normal dam, which is roughly the same cost to operate as a nuclear plant. However, they do last a long time. Typically at least 80 years. This allows for greater time to recover the roughly $5 billion an artificial structure would cost to store significant amounts of energy produced via renewables.
So far there’s been limited success finding a real solution to base load sources, and as a result, countries that choose to not pursue nuclear for a green base source of electricity are suffering with high CO2 emissions and pollution. For the time being, this is the best option we have available. Though there’s potential to be found in these storage methods, there’s little present technology to be exploited. This is somewhere we hope to make headway in the future, pressuring governments to fund this kind of research and find real solutions. In addition, breeder reactors would be able to burn the spent fuel of today’s base load source, but with no waste at the end. This is what we hope to see going forward.
A major struggle our planet faces in the next half century is how to produce enough food to feed ourselves, and also do so without destroying our planet and filling our waterways with antibiotics, hormones, and waste from these same farms. Creating a environmentally healthy farming solution, that’s also friendly to the animals and also not artificially manufactured and designed is a huge obstacle for our future.
One of the major causes of climate change, outside of our widespread use of fossil fuels, is actually farms and methane production from livestock. This is a major issue and a difficult one to fix. Solutions have ranged from trying to keep livestock emissions at the farm and used to produce power, as CO2 is a less serious greenhouse gas than methane, or to sequester it underground (an expensive option).
Where FondaTerra Steps In
Our role in this is unclear, but we do have some specific ideas on how to make sure animals are treated well, are allowed to roam free of cages, and also be economically viable. The concept of free range over open fields is likely going to butt up against land prices pretty quickly, however, hydroponics and large industrial buildings could solve these issues. This is not going to be a cheap option to construct, initially, but it will open up things like poultry to have more space and have sunlight/vegetation. Clear walled buildings of multi-stories allow for the same amount of meat to be produced, in the same area, but in a much more sustainable manner for the environment.
This is not going to be an overnight change, but these structures can be manufactured in a factory and then brought to locations and assembled. They do not need to be built in one off structural projects which will significantly decrease their costs. It will be difficult to enforce these changes without legislative help, and that’s where Fondaterra can offer the most help to the community. By petitioning for politicians to recognize and support these more advanced engineering projects, and helping to provide incentives to farmers to invest in the future of their country, we can take these first steps to a greener production of food.
Controlling Farm Emissions
Another big problem to overcome is the control of farming related emissions from cattle, poultry and livestock. There is not easy solution to these problems, however, there are several that are much easier with this prebuilt structure. Since these structures are enclosed typically, the emissions can be combusted and used as heating or to produce energy (a bit more difficult of a task, but possible). Either way, combustion of the area is ideal even if the energy is not subsequently used elsewhere, as converting the methane to CO2 severely reduces the impact on the environment and climate change.
We are not set to one idea to solve these important problems here at Fondaterra, yet two major goals need to be kept in the forefront of the conversation. We need a solution that is good for the environment, and allows for people to be fed and do so without damaging waterways, ground water, and cause global warming and are good for the animals. However, shoot us your ideas and we’ll check out what you have to say about these issues. The projects we want to see happen
Our environment is facing an existential risk as farming and land use drives massive pollution into waterways, ground water leaching and extreme harm to the atmosphere due to methane production from farm animals. There’s some tremendous damage caused by the traditional mass production and heavy meat consumption of the modern age, damage that will be difficult to fix for our planet. As such, each person needs to adapt their food intake and what types of food they eat accordingly, otherwise they risk exacerbating the problems.
One of the most obvious ways to help remedy these effects is to switch our own personal habits, though this is not always easy. People certainly want to change their ways and live a healthier life, it’s just a lot easier said than done. I remember when I was trying to lose weight, I was using a popular treatment known as the HCG diet. A product out there known as HCG plus, which were actually real hcg diet drops containing the actual hormone, I used as part of this weight loss attempt. Although it helped tremendously with my hunger and helped me burn fat off more quickly, I simply lacked the willpower to continue the effort, even after seeing awesome results once I stopped taking it. There simply was no way for me to control myself to the level required for success on my own. So too is it difficult to adapt to a healthier and more environmentally conscience diet.
The Plate of Tomorrow – What the Earth Needs Today
One of the simplest ways that a person can make a difference in this area is switching from animal proteins and to a vegetarian based protein diet. Vegetables and fruits do not produce greenhouse gases during their growth, and are significantly better for the environment and waterways than any meat we have available. In addition to these substantial benefits, this is also a lot better for our bodies as well. We will not only feel more energetic, but life healthier lives.
This is a lot easier said, than to make into a reality. Yet, this is what our planet needs in the long term. Waterways are being flooded with runoff from cattle ranches which result in significant water pollution, antibiotics reaching local water supplies, and significant local animal deaths and habitat destruction. Not only is this important, but if we were to reserve meat eating for more special occasions, we would severely cut down on land use, and increase productivity of farms. It takes 100 kilos or more of corn to produce one kilo of beef, whereas if we ate the corn directly instead it would be much less harmful to the environment, and to our own bodies.
These are not easy tasks, and require significant awareness among the population as well as more strict regulation and pricing of goods to put this kind of price signal out there. These consequences to the environment have a very expensive cost to society and the planet, and that needs to be reflected in the price at the grocery counter. Beyond that, the goal of changing ourselves at a personal level is possible, though not an easy road to climb, just like when we try to lose weight or better ourselves physically. These are important, not only for our environment, but for the health of humanity at large.
We all want an energy grid that’s cleaner and better for the environment. In fact, most scientists agree that unless something is done majorly to curb CO2 emissions worldwide, the Earth will reach a tipping point and climate change will cause irreparable harm over the next several hundred years to both people, and the environment. Many other scientists argue that it may already be too late to stop the damage done by these emissions.
There’s no easy fix to these sorts of issues, but we do know where to begin. First and foremost, we need to get both gas and coal off the grid, and as quickly as possible. Renewables are not in a position presently that they can actually augment our needs, as usually 60% of the grid needs to be baseload, which cannot be supplied by wind or solar. One hypothesis is that we can build enough batteries to augment this, but this is a serious problem. In the whole of human history combined, we still have not produced even 10 GWhr of Lithium Ion batteries. A typical city of 1 million would need 100 GWhr of storage to augment its needs for electricity during periods of low wind or low solar production. This is just one city, the world would require millions of GWhr of storage, far more than all Lithium on earth, and would likely cost 10s of trillions of EUR to produce the facilities to mine and manufacture this supply of chemical storage. Clearly, new thinking is needed.
The First Step Forward
This may sound grim at first glance, but there are many ways that we can reach these goals, and hopefully do so before the Earth is irreparably damaged and our place in it is threatened. France has a very strong nuclear energy mix, and this is highly advantageous. It will be very easy for a high infrastructure country like France, with such green production sources, to augment this with renewables and drive down to zero energy grid emissions. However, for much of the world, those that seem to value the environment at less than zero dollars, this will be much harder to achieve.
The biggest challenge, isn’t this front of the energy scheme. We already know completely green ways to produce electricity and energy, and know of several of them! Nuclear is definitely the greenest, with the lowest CO2 emissions per KWhr by far, even compared to renewables, but automotive and heating are really the contributors that we need to get under control. Automotive requires significant technological leaps forward, as batteries are not energy dense, last long enough, nor are cheap enough for cars. They also carry some significant risk for fire and thermal runaway during charging.
We all want to charge our cars are night and be able to go 500 miles on a charge tomorrow, or recharge our cars in 90 seconds. Yet, the engineering obstacles between now and then are monumental. One of our major goals, as a result, is to highlight the need for nuclear buildout, advanced nuclear reactors with minimal waste (such as the ASTRID project in France), get funding to the hands of talented engineers to pursue research on these next generation battery and capacitor systems, and really transform the energy landscape. The energy landscape may be something we all already know about, but it’s also something we need to remember as the most important area to improve going forward.
One of the greatest obstacles we must overcome is the challenges faced in storing electricity made from non-reliable sources, such as wind, solar or tidal energy. These sources already produce energy that is above the rates people want to pay, so if it is not used, it presents an even bigger problem with getting utilities on our side and developing these resources. There have been some tremendous efforts in recent years to store energy for later use, harnessing it when it is needed at another point. Yet on demand electricity like this is still one of the greatest hurdles to climb going forward.
For generations utilities have been plagued by a lack of storage for grid electricity, forcing companies to attempt to follow demand with fringe sources, such as natural gas, coal or other technologies. Only nuclear, coal and natural gas can successfully load follow demand. Beyond that, even with these sources, its neither efficient nor as cost effective as it could be to do so. There is always some significant parts of electricity being generated which is never used. Power companies would love to be able to store this for longer periods and release it on demand later.
A number of technologies already exist that can storage electricity, from capacitors, to mechanical storage to batteries. All have their advantages and disadvantages, but few are ever economically competitive in the current marketplace. The greatest challenge faced in this field is to make the viable, and energy dense enough utilities would want to use them – while maintaining a good degree of economic advantages, long term stability and fast response times. In this we will be discussing some of the most promising technologies as well as outline the progress they have made so far in this area, and what they could potentially accomplish in the future.
Battery (Chemical) Storage
One of the most promising and easiest for people to understand is the use of batteries to store energy. However, there are some major reasons these have not taken off for grid electricity. They are quite expensive (1000-15,000 US dollars per KWhr of capacity) and have a finite number of cycles they can operate in. Technological progress in this area has been painfully slow as well, further compounding the problem.
A solution that’s been proposed and tried so far, is to use NaS chemical exchanges. By initiating a chemical reaction between two pools of material they can store energy and release it later (thousands of times). It’s also a lot cheaper than most battery technologies with similar cycle life. There are still many problems, such as Na salts being highly flammable in air and the baths need to be kept at 300 °C, also the batteries will suffer permanent damage if allowed to discharge completely.
Uphill Water Reservoirs
A novel idea is to pump water uphill and then allowing it to flow down again, similar to a dam. The need to store electricity derived from wind and solar is greatest in areas of Northern Europe presently, where countries like Denmark produce around 20% of their electricity with offshore wind. Pumping water from there up to a storage area of later use could be a potentially excellent solution, however, similar to battery storage this is fraught with issues.
In order to even take advantage of this possibility, the location will need to be close to where wind is producing electricity, but also needs to be high up and mountainous. These areas seldom occur in the same place, making it tremendously challenging to effectively do this today. In addition, efficiency from this process is quite low. Electricity generated is used to drive a pump which in turn drives a turbine later. Turbines for hydroelectricity are not particularly efficient compared to heat driven steam generation. As a result, you lose about 70-80% of the energy in this process once its used later. Still, given the complexities faced by battery based storage systems this could be a viable option in the future. These dams also are quite damaging to the environment to build typically.
Fondaterra promotes methods to store all electricity however is economically feasible, given the scale of this problem and how much of an impact it could have on our ability to maintain resources in the future.
It’s certainly not a surprise that we need a very healthy agricultural sector in our country in order to maintain a high degree of security, health among our population and availability of important diet staples. The lack of any one of these things could result in tremendously negative outcomes for our populous, so it’s important to support this sector. Our landscape relies heavily upon our stewardship of it, not only for these reasons, but for the very social fabric of the countryside and those farming communities.
We face an existential crisis that transcends generations among this community. Those from the newer generations do not wish to work out in the fields, or on their farms, and instead are moving into urban areas. This has been a problem for France now for nearly a decade, and appears it will persist for some time as well. Many initiatives that Fonda Terra supports, such as the Energy Waste program, can help change this for the better. Using our community of farmers as a forward thinking group, which will hopefully result in many more leaps forward in the years to come. New technologies like anerobic digestion, which turns waste from farming into fuel, offers new engineering challenges that we hope will pull talented individuals from the cities and back into our countrysides.
The Rural Action Program
There is a shortage of housing in many rural areas that proves affordable for people that live there. This can cause huge consequences that are difficult to quantify, but young people in particular almost always will leave the area to seek more affordable housing, which typically means apartment dwellings in more urban areas. This has led to huge reductions in the available workforce, nearly no new expertise being created for farm hands and laborers, as well as farm owners, and a lack of skilled workers in rural towns. A lack of workers has many results, but the most severe is the reduction of health care, food services, communication services, and transportation for rural workers. Its our hope that an affordable housing initiative, called the “Rural Action” program will be launched to help combat this.
This initiative centers around encouraging local businesses, property owners, and developers to enter into these areas to build affordable housing and help maintain the area and provide them the workers they need. This is not an easy task, but with three core objectives: connection consumers with rural issues, improving sustainability of farming communities and provide healthcare for these areas, they hope to achieve positive growth in workforce and skilled laborers in the rural countryside. This is something France desperately needs in order to achieve long term health and future security.
The Goal of Our Rural Outreach
There are several major goals we hope to achieve from the rural outreach program. Reducing five key areas are what is most important, and will identify the success of this initiative. Dealing with: rural isolation, low incomes from farming, declining population in rural communities, lack of training access, and healthcare. These tasks require top down solutions from our government and wide scale support in order to properly address them. What this means is that our leaders will need to take on this effort at the most basic level, and promote it directly with proper funding, motivation based incentives, and proper investment into our rural communities.
These things are never going to be easy to achieve, and they will require some serious commitment on the part of our leaders and in these communities themselves. Yet, we believe it’s possible for them to achieve solid outcomes and maintain a high standard, if proper commitment is given. Rural communities are culturally strong, and motivated to stick together. For these reasons we feel it’s clear that this is achievable.
Humanity is on the verge of something tremendously difficult to overcome. Will we continue to pursue “cheaper” energy that also will eventually cause us a great deal of harm? This is the question the world faces over the next 40 years, and it’s one that no one really has an answer to. We must make this decision in a way that preserves our ability to produce and manufacture things at an economical price, but also one that won’t wind up sacrificing our future and children’s future in the process.
This has been the biggest policy issue of the 21st century, with politicians appearing on all sides of the argument, mostly with their own vested interests. What does this mean for the common person who wants to make an impact? It means that it’s almost impossible to have a voice that carries any weight. That’s where organizations like Fonda Terra step in. Our goal is to provide a voice to the average person through our political invoice, public policy strategies and growth centric investments in our communities. By creating green options around us, people can take their own steps forward and discover how easy it is to adapt to this lifestyle.
Our Paris Bike Initiative
One of our recent construction projects was to provide electric scooters to universities in the area. Starting with Versailles, we have how built out hundreds of free electric scooters that students can rent for up to one hour. This helps people get used to a more mobile, cheap and safer way to travel that’s not really any more expensive overall than using a gas scooter. Electricity is far cheaper in Paris than gasoline, so these offer a great option in lieu of these climate harming transportation methods.
Our Wind Initiative
Nuclear power in France is plentiful, and is a really green solution for electricity needs. Not only is it a lot cheaper than our neighbors, but it’s completely emission free. Yet a lot of the excess (the remaining 25% of our electricity that isn’t nuclear) winds up being fossil fuels. One of our biggest pushes right now is to incorporate wind energy to make up some of this fringe need during peak times of the day. Right now most of this comes from natural gas, which outputs an enormous amount of CO2.
Finding an alternative to these damaging policies is what we’re all about. Through the introduction of sound fiscal reimbursements for nuclear and other renewables that are not burdensome to the taxpayer, through loan guarantees for example, Fonda Terra hopes to provide value to utilities as well as their customers.
The challenges that our most important to use over the next several years include, boosting funding to these renewable projects to make up the extra part of French power that’s required beyond nuclear. Promote more nuclear power initiatives with the present government to replace the aging infrastructure we have. We still strongly believe in the future of France’s role in nuclear energy, and it providing such a clean alternative to fossil fuels. These are expensive infrastructure projects at the start, but last for nearly 100 years and have the capability of providing much more clean energy than any other source. Not only that, they’re way cheaper than alternatives for the EU.
With these goals in mind, we will charge head first into the foray with your help. Together we can change France and Europe for the better and greener.